US Election: Presidential Debate Round Three

BY SONIA BENHASSINE AND TARA MCEVOY

As the race for the White House comes to a conclusion, join Sonia Benhassine and Tara McEvoy as they analyse the three presidential debates.

The White House- HarshLight- Flickr

The third presidential debate of this election took place in Boca Raton, Florida. This was an interesting choice as Florida has been a huge swing state during the last few elections, with a massive Electoral College vote to boot.

The debate concerned foreign affairs and ironically took place on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile crisis. Like the presidency of John F Kennedy in 1962, one of the biggest issues facing the White House today is that of foreign enemies and overseas conflicts.

During the second debate, tensions arose over the apparent failure of the Obama administration to identify whether Americans were killed in Libya due to a terrorist attack. This set the tone for Romney’s stance during the third debate which was merely a critique of Obama’s foreign policy labelling it as “leading from behind”.

Obama played his Commander-in-Chief trump card, highlighting the foreign policy victories of his term in office including the end of the Iraq war and the killing of Osama Bin Laden. In terms of Libya, Obama was able to show the American people that the international coalition which toppled the Gadaffi regime cost less than a week of conflict in Iraq. This appeared to highlight that the Obama administration has done more to resolve overseas conflicts and in a more cost effective manner, than the previous Bush administration.

Romney also attempted to break away from the actions of the last Republican presidency. He appeared moderate, stating that he wouldn’t want another Iraq or Afghanistan saying “we can’t kill our way out of this mess”- clearly appealing to the moderate Republicans as well as Democrats. Romney did however appear to be too cautious during the debate, which made him susceptible to Obama’s rebuttals.

Obama managed to make Romney look out of touch with foreign affairs and almost having a Cold War

mentality by saying “the 1980s called, they asked for their foreign policy back”. This continued throughout the debate when, on the issue of military equipment, Romney made the point that the US navy has less warships than in the 1990s. Obama informed Romney very bluntly of the development of more sophisticated military equipment accounts for this decrease, sarcastically saying we have less “donkeys and bayonets than we did in 1916 too”. Could Obama have been proving that Romney is incapable of fulfilling the roll as Commander-in- Chief?

Although they differed on issues such as the handling of the Arab Spring, China and Russia, they both had a pro-Israeli stance. It can’t help being noted that Obama and Romney both decided to make this apparent whilst debating in Florida, a huge swing state with the biggest Jewish population in America.

It became apparent throughout the debate that Romney was not in his comfort zone in discussing foreign affairs. However during his term in office Obama has been an integral part of the end of the war in Iraq, the Arab Spring and the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, therefore experience was a clear advantage for the president, whereas Romney interestingly deviated from foreign affairs back to the economy.

However what appeared to be a success for the Obama camp did nothing to shake the polls as they remain at 49% for Obama and 48% for Romney.

COMMENT

With less than a fortnight left to go before the elections that are going to change the shape of the next four years not only in the US but the world, these debates marked a final chance for the candidates to connect with a volatile electorate. In a lot of respects, viewers read into debates what they wanted to, with only miniscule differences in polls placing Obama ahead at time of going to press. To use an old chestnut, then, it’s still all to play for – two weeks, and pundits will be debating the outcome! – Tara

Overall the debates appeared to lack any real momentum, real policy and any form of conviction from either candidate. This was partly due to the vast amount of undecided voters and the amount big Electoral College states still in play, therefore neither candidate wanted to isolate an electoral base. After the third presidential debate the opinion polls remained 49% to Obama and 48% Romney. However, there’s only one poll which counts, the election on November 6 – Sonia

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